Benefit managers oversee Hurricane Harvey donation efforts

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Since Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Saturday, many benefit managers nationwide have been tasked with creating a system for employee donations and employer contributions to affected Texans and their communities.

Corporate giants such as UnitedHealthcare, United Airlines and New York Life are offering an employee giving program, pledging to match employee donations to the Red Cross and other hurricane relief and recovery efforts. Meanwhile, benefit managers have implemented various systems to automatize donations.

The Cigna Foundation created a donation link within the company’s Intranet that triggers an automatic contribution match, Cigna says. The health insurer is contributing $100,000 to the Red Cross in addition to the employee match. At this time, Cigna says it is unaware of the number and dollar amount of donations.

Similarly, San Diego-based Sempra Energy posted instructions on the front page of the company Intranet site on how employees can donate to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts with links to the appropriate pages to make contributions, says Sempra Energy.

The natural gas utilities company also allows employees to sign up for a payroll deduction to streamline the donation process.

“The Sempra Energy Foundation has made similar pledges in the past, receiving great support from employees,” a company spokeswoman says, noting that the foundation is focused on supporting disaster relief efforts and encourages personal engagement and involvement of Sempra Energy employees.

Sempra Energy isn’t the only company to opt for the payroll method.

Financial services giant JP Morgan Chase offers an employee giving program as part of its robust benefits package, says a company spokesman; workers can opt for a payroll deduction or use a credit card.

“For special campaigns such as this one, employees donate through a secure internal microsite where they enter their credit card payment information,” according to the company. “Employees are notified when matching contributions are made by the firm on their behalf.

See also: Companies communicate benefits, resources to Hurricane Harvey victims

Some benefit managers have opted to use crowdfunding sites or social media platforms to enable matching donations from both employees and consumers.

United Airlines, which is raising money for Hurricane Harvey efforts, also will match the first $200,000 donated through crowdfunding site CrowdRise and has encouraged its employees to donate through the platform, says United. United CEO Oscar Munoz is also matching up to $1 million in employee contributions made to the airline’s internal charitable organization, which provides basic assistance to United employees and retirees.

New York Life uses third-party administrator YourCause to aid donations and match up to $5,000 each year as an employee benefit to its charity- and community-minded workers, says Heather Nesle, president of the New York Life Foundation.

New York Life employees and agents can log in to YourCause to authorize a one-time payroll deduction or add their credit card information to make a donation, Nesle says. In the case of a natural disaster, New York Life will activate its disaster matching program at its discretion, while also tacking on a corporate donation. The mutual life-insurance company is matching up to $150,000 in Hurricane Harvey donations, she says.

Although companies are likely to make lump-sum donations after natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy or the 2010 Haitian earthquake, the majority of employers don’t offer charitable matches as a benefit. Only one in five employers in 2017 offer matching employee charitable contributions, down from 23% in 2015, according to SHRM’s 2017 Employee Benefits survey, which polled 3,227 HR professionals.

But, industry experts say that those employers who do offer a donation vehicle might improve employee perception of the company and increase retention rates.

“A key driver of employee engagement here is employee perception of our values and purpose,” says the New York Life Foundation’s Nesle. “The culture of our company demands we have something like this.”

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